With all the focus on candidates ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, it’s easy to forget that there will also be questions on your ballot. To help you prepare for the voting booth, we’ve prepared this article to explain what these questions will be and what they could mean for New Hampshire. You can see a sample 2022 midterm ballot here.
Should NH eliminate the office of “register of probate”?
The first ballot question asks voters whether the New Hampshire Constitution should be amended to remove references to “registers of probate.” Register of probate is an elected office at the county level in New Hampshire. Traditionally, the register of probate in each county would be responsible for issues like simple wills, but a 2011 restructuring of the court system removed nearly all the official duties of the register of probate. However, the position is instituted by the New Hampshire Constitution, so, it’s up to the people of New Hampshire whether this position should be eliminated.
At first glance, you may not realize this ballot question is talking about registers of probate, because “register of probate” appears nowhere in the text! Instead, the ballot question shows what the New Hampshire Constitution would look like without references to registers of probate. So don’t worry – you aren’t passing any new constitutional provisions if you vote “yes” to the first question.
While it may seem silly to keep an elected office that no longer serves much of a purpose, some legislators in past years have proposed giving registers of probate new official duties rather than eliminating the position. If you want to hear a more detailed discussion of this debate, you can check out our podcast episode about political clothing at polling places; we discuss the register of probate question about eight minutes in (at timestamp –2:20).
Should there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?
The second ballot question asks voters whether or not New Hampshire should hold a convention to rewrite its constitution. At least every ten years, Granite Staters are given the choice of whether they think it’s time to update the state constitution as a whole. The last time our state held a constitutional convention was in 1984; ten years ago, New Hampshire voted not to hold one.
So, what happens if voters decide they want a constitutional convention this time around? In that case, voters would then be tasked with choosing delegates to the convention at the next election, similar to the process for choosing state representatives. Then, if three-fifths of those delegates agree on changes to the state constitution, the final changes would be put before voters at the next biennial election.
Considering the effort it takes to hold a constitutional convention, you may be wondering why anyone would want to. There are a variety of proposed constitutional amendments that have gained traction in recent years, including a constitutional ban on income/sales taxes, changes to legislator compensation (currently $100 a year plus mileage), a constitutional right to an abortion, and more. We have a full podcast and web article on this topic for those wishing to take a deeper dive.
Want to learn even more about these two ballot questions? Our friends at the NH League of Women Voters have prepared this detailed PDF explaining in more detail.